Malaysia: Where to Wine and Dine in Penang.
A glorious Island where traditional beauty and heritage are now merging with modern luxury and comfort; Penang is definitely a superb destination, especially for its food! Having lived in Penang on and off for a large portion of my 21 years on Earth (my parents still live there now, which means I have the blessing of returning a lot!) I have a fairly good idea about some great spots for dinner or drinks. Penang is often rated highly for its delicious food; with its delectable mix of numerous oriental (and even European) food, ranging from easily accessible street stalls, to fancy restaurants. So, let me give you an insight into a selected few…
Where To Dine…
A lovable trait of most Asian countries is their street food. A great way to experience new and exciting foods is to take yourself to one of the alfresco food courts made up of numerous stalls selling a variety of Asian dishes. There a plenty of these food courts to be found, however, two of my favourites include Long Beach, in Batu Ferringhi, and Northam Beach, near Gurney Drive. If you were to find me at one of these two venues, I would most probably be chomping down on a seafood tom yum soup; certainly a must-try for those who like their spicy! I would also recommend the pineapple fried rice (which is served in half a pineapple!) and the spicy mango (now, this would definitely have a proper name, but ‘spicy mango’ will do just fine) which is slices of unripened mango in a spicy coating – it is honestly addictive, I’d eat the whole thing. You will find plenty to choose from, and don’t worry, it’s not all spicy! When ordering drinks, I often like to get a fresh fruit juice, like orange or lime, but an ice cold milo is perfect for washing down the spice.
One thing you are not going to find yourself short of on the island is fish. I absolutely love seafood, and black pepper squid is a dish I always get when I go to alfresco Chinese restaurants, such as DeHappy in Georgetown, or the End of the World, which is found at the end of the long road running through Batu Ferringhi. A great style of restaurant for groups or families, as many of the dishes are designed for sharing.
If you’re looking for a bit of cosy, home-cooked western or oriental food, check out the Hillside in Tanjung Bungah, an artistic and friendly café with fantastic service. A great place to grab a healthy breakfast (which, unfortunately, I would find quite a mission in Penang otherwise!), a hearty lunch, or a relaxing cup of tea. My personal favourite is to grab loads of delicious sides to share!
If you’re looking for a bit of glamour, the restaurants in the hotels can be a good choice, with the E&O hotel in Georgetown oozing charming vintage appeal. A few other potential choices could include Thirty Two Mansion near the E&O, which has a beautifully designed interior, as does Suffolk House. The last time I visited the latter, my family and I had a 3 course set menu with practically no other customers, and as a result, essentially had our own butler – for the price of a Nandos each in the UK. For the British TV drama fans out there; it is also the filming set for Indian Summers!
I can’t even express or begin to note all the amazing destinations on Penang Island for anything from some fine dining, to ridiculously cheap local dishes (easily less than RM15) but my main advice is to make sure to try some of the local food; roti canai (like a savoury pancake you dip into curry sauce), koay teow (pronounced kay chow; a tasty noodle meal), and many, many more…
Where To Wine…
For a large number of us, a holiday wouldn’t truly be a holiday if alcohol wasn’t involved. Perhaps a classy cocktail in the sun, a refreshing beer with dinner, or a tower of tequila that results in exchanging your phone for a taxi ride home. Whatever you’re looking for, I’ve got you covered with a handful of my all time, most loved bars and pubs…
The artistically designed and atmospheric China House, located in Georgetown, is one of my favourite evening spots. An amazing corridor-like stretch of linked indoor and outdoor sections; with a bar at one end, a café at the other, and a restaurant and outdoor courtyard seating area in between. Here you can expect to enjoy anything from a piece of deluxe cake and a coffee for a relaxing afternoon, to a piece of live music and an espresso martini. You’re looking at around RM30 for a single cocktail, or RM90 for a jug of frozen margarita. Prices are, of course, not always static, but these are round-about figures based on my last visit a few months ago. If you’re looking for a sophisticated night out I would certainly recommend; the interior and layout alone is reason enough to visit.
If you are a young traveller I would point you in the direction of Lebuh Chulia; a street in Georgetown full of local food restaurants and lively bars. One of the smaller adjacent streets, Love Lane, harbours all the young travellers with a beer in each hand. I have had some great nights here with friends, where the locals play some fantastic live music, and everyone is dancing. Just a minute walk away you’ll find another beautiful, oriental yet modern style bar; Chulia Court. Last time I visited they had a great deal of 3 (of the selected) cocktails or beers for around RM50. My personal favourite would have to be the lychee martini! After a few (too may) of those, I had a go at a white Russian, and they were pretty decent too.
If you happen to be staying in Batu Ferringhi, or plan to spend a few of your days there, you might like to find Bora Bora; a bar located on the beach, nestled in between the Lone Pine and Holiday Inn hotels. A tropically themed restaurant and bar, perfect for sitting next to the beach and watching the sun go down with a cocktail. If you plan to stay in one of Batu Ferringhi’s glorious beach front hotels, they are likely to include a beach bar – hopefully with happy hour!
Luckily for the beer lovers amongst us, you’re never going to be too far from a cold Tiger. However, if you want to be a bit more adventurous there is the Brussels Beer café in Gurney Paragon, which serves a lovely Leffe Blonde beer that my parents introduced me to, along with an array of other international beers. In Straits Quay, you’ll find the Berlin Bier Haus and Healy Mac’s traditional Irish Pub, which I have heard is a top spot for expats, but also, of course, travellers.
And there we have it; a small introduction into the large array of wonderful destinations to find some delicious meals and a drink or three. Just a few places that are easily accessible, provide a great service and atmosphere, and make for decent starting points. As with travelling around any new country – or in this case, island – you should explore(!) and I guarantee you will find some really cool places to grab a drink or a bite to eat.
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